In the midst of a tough Western road trip against some of the league’s largest teams, the Islanders got a big piece of their defense back. Travis Hamonic returned from a four-game absence Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks and was reunited with running mate Calvin de Haan, giving the Islanders a tough, gritty twosome.
The Hamonic-de Haan pairing showed promise at the end of last season and may be the Islanders' most physical, edgy defensive duo. Going up against the likes of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, the Islanders will need Hamonic and de Haan to grind the Ducks stars and mix it up on Wednesday night.
“Personally it’s something I really try to bring to the game,” Hamonic said. “I try to bring a physical element and Cal and I spend a lot of time playing against the other team's top line. To play against those players you have to get in their face and be physical on them.”
Hamonic is 6’2, 217 lbs. and isn’t afraid to face anyone in the league. Hamonic tends to take the lead in pressing forwards, but de Haan, at 6’1, 193 lbs., also makes opponents pay the price. They say the goal is to make opposing forwards feel uncomfortable.
They’ll have willing combatants in Perry and Getzlaf. As the home team Wednesday, Anaheim will have the benefit of the last line change prior to faceoffs. Perry and Getzlaf are big and mean, and employ the same in-your-face tactics against defensemen. De Haan said they have to step up, but stay in line.
We’ve really grown our games together and feed off each other pretty well. - Travis Hamonic
“Don’t get sucked into their shenanigans after the whistle,” de Haan said. “We have to be mentally tough out there and not take dumb penalties. Just stay calm doing what we have to do.”
Hamonic and de Haan had played together prior to last season, pairing up in the 2010 World Junior Championships. They are a tenacious pair and compliment each other’s style of play with de Haan as the puck mover and Hamonic as the physically imposing presence.
Still, de Haan has some snarl to his game and has laid some big hits this season, while Hamonic’s 10 shot attempts vs. San Jose show that he’s looking for opportunities to chip in offensively.
“We’ve really grown our games together and feed off each other pretty well,” Hamonic said.
With Hamonic healthy, the Islanders have three solid pairings and can spread assignments and ice time around. Last year the Islanders had two players playing 25 minutes a night and were sometimes asking rookies to play nearly 20.
Hamonic was one of those 25-minute players, but he’s seen his ice time go under 21 minutes (20:45) and no player is playing more than Johnny Boychuk’s 22:21.
“We’re pretty confident in what we have back there,” Hamonic said. “We have a really solid D corps and we have the depth now that we hadn’t had in a long time. We all feel we can do the job.”
Wednesday night, that job will likely require a hammer. Good thing the Islanders have theirs back.